This post is published as a companion to Unit 9, Session 5 of The Gospel Project for Adults Vol. 3 (Spring 2022): From Conquest to a Kingdom.
Scripture: 1 Samuel 4:1b-11
The Israelites were defeated by the Philistines in this passage and the elders regrouped and thought about what they did wrong. But instead of praying to God and asking for His strength, they thought that bringing the ark of the covenant with them in battle would be enough to be victorious. But they were severely wrong and dire consequences resulted. Not only did 30,000 men fall, including the evil priestly sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, but the ark of the covenant was captured!
Faith in the Wrong Things
It would be easy to shake our heads at the Israelites and think they were foolish to think such things. But if we are honest, we can easily fall into the same trap of having our faith in the things of God and not God Himself.
For those of us in ministry, sometimes we think our ministry or our discipleship program or our riveting worship is what would lead people closer to God and we put all our efforts into making it our best, but if God Himself is not first our source of power and strength, our ministries are useless.
For those of us with marriage or parenting problems, sometimes our reliance on counseling (even Christian counseling) or great books or family and youth pastors supersedes our reliance on Christ and we wonder why we are not improving in these relationships. It’s so easy to try to fix the problems ourselves thinking the right tools and resources are all we need, yet if our reliance is not first on Jesus and our prayers are not first directed toward God’s power and plans, we will find our efforts weak and powerless.
Faith in Christ
See, we are not so unlike the Israelites. Clearly, the ark of the covenant was a good thing and clearly, all our ministry tools and resources are good things, but our power, strength, and trust should be focused on one thing—God Himself.
And what does that focus and faith look like? It’s not a one-time, get me out of my mess, God, type of faith. It’s a consistent, daily obedience, in contrast to the “faith” of Hophni and Phinehas, that says Lord, I trust you no matter what happens. Lord, I’ll obey at whatever cost to me. Lord, you are my rock and my salvation. It’s a faith that stands up for the weak and oppressed. It’s a faith that gets you out of your comfort zone for His purposes. It’s a faith that’s against the cultural trends of the day and instead is for the holy commands of God that are eternal and life-giving.
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
When life’s battles come our way, we must first go to Christ for strength and guidance, focusing on gaining a victory for Him, not for us. In the end, He might lead us to resources, guides, and ministries to be used in the process, but in everything first, we must be reminded that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Let’s not put our trust in good things to fight our battles; let’s put our trust in our great Lord, who wins battles for His glory and His glory alone.